By Willem Buiter:
Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science; former chief economist of the EBRD, former external member of the MPC; adviser to international organisations, governments, central banks and private financial institutions.
The spinelessness and moral cowardice of the Obama administration know no bounds. The Bush-Cheney team ordered the torture and abuse of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base and assorted other locations abroad – offshore detention without trial as well as torture by US officials or persons acting under their instructions being permitted by Article VIII of the United States Constitution, as confirmed in the XXVIIIth Amendment to the US Constitution.
Candidate Obama declares he abhors torture and deplores what went on in Gitmo and in secret detention centres around the world, but President Obama decides that the Camp may have to remain open for another year, as he doesn’t seem to know what to do with the prisoners. The right thing to do would have been to send a plane to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base on the day of his inauguration, to move all the prisoners to the USA.
President Obama then also decides not to prosecute those who committed the crimes of torture or abuse of prisoners or were responsible for these crimes. The president’s excuse was was that he sought to turn the page on “a dark and painful chapter”. It was a “time for reflection, not for retribution”, he said.
He is quite wrong. Reflection complements the law. It is not a substitute for it. Those who can be charged with these offences should be tried and, if found guilty, punished according to the law. If among the guilty parties are CIA agents and former vice-president Dick Cheney, then so be it. If you cannot do the time, you should not do the crime. This is not vengeance, it is justice – and it is the law. Justice must be done and must be seen to be done before healing and reconciliation can start.